OU blog

Personal Blogs

Patrick Andrews

Multilingualism in Qing dynasty China

Visible to anyone in the world

We recently went to the exhibition "China's Hidden Century" at the British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/exhibitions/chinas-hidden-century, which was fascinating and, as is usually the case, language issues were very important.

The exhibition made it very clear that China was very much a multilingual society and there were recordings of texts in Mandarin, Cantonese, Manchu, Mongolian and Tibetan.  This large variety of languages reflected the languages that were spoken in the Empire and Beijing, in particular, was a multilingual cosmopolitan city.

I bought Lovell's (2011) book on the opium wars to learn more about the background.  At several points, she discusses language issues.  She describes how the Emperors had a desire to learn languages.  For example, Qianlong knew six languages and used Mongolian and Tibetan in audiences with representatives of these groups.  He stated "I use their own languages and do not use an interpreter ......to conquer them with kindness"  (Lovell 2011: 90).  So, he saw knowledge of languages as giving power.

Not knowing languages was also seen as a way of preventing enemies or rivals from having power.  The Qing did their best to prevent foreigners from learning Chinese and Manchu.  This even went as far as making teaching foreigners Chinese in Canton in the early nineteenth century a capital offence (Lovell 2011).

Current politicians in the UK who do little to promote the learning and teaching of modern foreign languages could learn from the Qing Emperors.

Lovell J (2011) The Opium War London: Picador


Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Patrick Andrews

Football and language again

Visible to anyone in the world

I have recently been watching the documentary "All or Nothing" about Tottenham last year.

There are a variety of languages used representing the multinational nature of the team.  I was interested to see Jose Mourinho talking one to one with the England international, Eric Dier in Portuguese.  Dier's Portuguese seemed fluent (but I am not expert on this) but I wonder whether there was a power dynamic at work here as it is obviously Mourinho's first language.

I was also struck by how often swear words were used as part of the culture.  Do the players and managers think this provokes more passion?  Interestingly, Amazon did not bleep out the "f word" but did bleep out the "c word".

There is also an interesting section where Mourinho learns the names of the players.  Again, there are aspects of hierarchies.  Harry Kane is called "Harry" so Harry Winks has to be called "Winksy".  He also asks the player Kyle Walker Peters if he is "Walker" or "Peters" and he replies "Walker Peters".  It seems surprising that Mourinho who has worked in Britain for a long time is not really aware of double barelled surnames.

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Patrick Andrews, Friday, 16 Oct 2020, 14:12)
Share post

This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.

Total visits to this blog: 873093